More In-laws: Family Meeting

Kerry says that her relationship with her mother-in-law, Carol, has never been better. Unfortunately, her relationship with her own mother, Wanda, has never been worse. "My mom really hasn't talked to me since the show. She's really mad at me because I've been sticking up for Ernie," says Kerry. "I'm really nervous. I've never really stood up to my mom before."

The women wanted to clear the air so they had a family meeting. Wanda starts the discussion. "I'm not going to dredge up every little thing from 10 years ago that was said. I just want us to get along as a family, and by family I'm including Ernie," she says.

When Wanda wonders why Ernie has never told her he had a problem with her, he says, "In the past, I felt like I have and I got jumped on for it."

Kerry's father, Fred, chimes in: "We never realized that you held this inside."

"I stuff it all down because honestly, Fred, you have just told me that's the way things are. 'You've got to learn to deal with it,'" Ernie explains.

In frustration, Kerry says, "From now on, I'm just going to do what I want to do, and I'm not really going to care what anybody thinks of it."

Kerry brings up her hurt at Wanda's treatment of her. "I'm just supposed to take all this crap and act like it doesn't matter to me like what you said to me after the show," she sobs. "How do you think that makes me feel?"

Wanda maintains her innocence. "It was honestly a joke," she says in surprise.

"'You got a big f**king mouth you little b**ch,' is what you said," Kerry clarifies.

"Do you think I really meant that?"

"Yes! Yes, I do."

Fred addresses his daughter. "You had a hell of a lot thicker skin than this when you were in high school," he says.

"I'm just supposed to have thick skin? That's the deal?" Kerry says angrily.

Fred is through with the discussion. "I can't see where dredging all this old stuff up is helping matters one little bit so I'm getting out of here right now. That's enough for me," he says, walking out of the room.

Kerry and Wanda join Dr. Phil onstage.

"Well, you guys are back and you haven't been talking much," Dr. Phil observes. "Is it because it breaks into an argument or you just don't have anything to say?"

"All we talk about is my girls and that's it," Kerry says. 

"But I feel like you're in this blame game turf war about who's right and who's wrong."

Wanda replies, "I agree with you 100 percent, Dr. Phil, and I am willing to bury everything, put it behind us."

"But you don't trust that?" Dr. Phil asks Kerry.

Kerry admits that she has reservations, explaining how tense the family was at a recent Easter dinner. "Nobody was really ruthless, but my dad really didn't talk to me and I just felt like he's mad at me for the show," she says. "I felt like, 'Why are we wasting this time being weirdoes?' because that's not how I want to be with my mom and dad."

You say you actually feel guilty for standing up for your husband and your family because you think it's at the expense of your relationship with your mother and father?" Dr. Phil asks Kerry.

She replies, "I feel like it's a choice. It's a choice between either Ernie or my mom. It's the two people that I love the most in the world and I don't feel I should be expected to make a choice." She also points out that the conflict with her family escalated.

"Peace at any price is not peace at all," Dr. Phil stresses. Tensions may seem higher now, he says, because the family had been ignoring their true feelings. "It's not that everybody has gotten worse in terms of the way they're treating you, it's just you're not putting up with it anymore, and there is a price to standing your ground."

Addressing Wanda, Dr. Phil asks, "Now what was up with saying, 'You've got a big mouth on you, you little b**ch?" 

"I said, 'You little witch,'" Wanda clarifies. "That was a misinterpretation."

Dr. Phil plays back the tape of Wanda whispering in Kerry's ear. "Whether it was witch, b**ch, gritch, whatever ... Was that said as a joke?" he questions.

Wanda stands her ground. "To me it was, and I think Kerry knows me well enough."

"Did you see her face at the end of that?"

"Yes, I did."

To Kerry, Dr. Phil asks, "So is that the kind of thing you're talking about? It appears everything is fine but underneath, no."

Kerry says yes.

Addressing the family, Dr. Phil says, "There's a point at which you just have to move forward." To Wanda, he asks, "What do you need to stop doing so there isn't a problem here?"
"I guess I've got to start being a better mother-in-law and a better mother. I never knew that I hurt Kerry's feelings that much," she admits. "If I've got to change my whole lifestyle and my language, well then I'll try to change."

Kerry is incredulous. "No one is asking you to do that. No one is asking you to change your lifestyle and your language. That's ridiculous!" she says.

Dr. Phil advises Kerry to empower herself and stop seeking the approval of others. "You said, 'Ernie and I felt great after the show. I stood up to my mom. I stood up to Carol, which I didn't think I could do in a million years. It has empowered Ernie and I. We are more of a team and I feel much, much better about our relationship as a product of doing that,'" he observes.

"That's true and I still feel that way," she says.

"Then you need to decide that Wanda doesn't have to feel great about your husband," Dr. Phil says.

"This family needs a hero. It needs a lot of heroes," Dr. Phil says. "Somebody who just steps up and says, 'You know what? I'm going to be the one who is going to be the bigger person here. The only person that I control is me.' You're either contributing to this relationship or you're contaminating it. If [Wanda's] contributing to it, great. If she's contaminating, shut the door."

The family needs to put their differences aside and say, "We're going to move forward. We're going to put up boundaries, and we're going to really make the decision to just try to forgive the past."